How Advocacy Works
The LWV of Delaware is active in Dover, the state capital, working primarily through our 16 volunteer, registered lobbyists and other members of the Advocacy Corps who support our advocacy work in many ways.
Our volunteer lobbyists advocate on those bills where we have a relevant state or national position that has been developed after study and consensus at the national and/or state level.
A summary of our state positions is developed after study and consensus. Positions developed by LWVUS can also be used as a basis for League action.
The AC is also responsible for organizing our annual League Day in Dover, held in late March or early April each year.
The Corps meets in Dover monthly during legislative sessions and most months in between. For more information contact lwvde [at] comcast.net (Linda Barnett), Advocacy Chair.
Current and Recent Advocacy Actions
The LWVDE Advocacy Corps meets monthly, in Dover when possible and via Zoom when necessary. Preparing for advocacy at the state level takes place year-round. The Advocacy Corps takes positions on the bills and administrative actions it tracks and offers testimony in person at hearings, when possible, and electronically when necessary. We support or oppose legislative and administrative proposals in accordance with policy positions approved by the State Board. The full set of those policy positions can be found elsewhere on this site, as can the actual texts of the testimony presented over the course of the 150th General Assembly.
During the150th General Assembly (which ran from January 2018 - June 30, 2020), we tracked approximately 150 bills. Our top priority legislation for 2019 was Early Voting and it was enacted, with several League members present for the signing by Governor Carney on June 30, 2019. This process goes into effect in January 2022. Our top priority for 2020 was Vote-By-Mail, and legislation to authorize that for the 2020 Primary and General Elections was also enacted.
We also study the Governor’s Recommended Budget and the budget proposed by the Joint Finance Committee each year, testifying at the various hearings held. The budgets adopted for Fiscal Year 2021 included: $4.5 billion operating, $708 million capital bonds, and $55 million grant-in-aid budgets. The Governor’s original proposal in January included a $4.6 billion operating budget and an $893 million bond bill, which would have been the biggest in the state's history. Due to the Covid-19 slow down the state's revenue forecast dropped by $400 million through June.
Indeed, the public health emergency in which we are plunged has affected our advocacy, as it has everything else in our world. Much of what we had hoped to work toward has been stopped in its tracks.
Nonetheless, we do have accomplishments to report from the just-completed legislative session, and highlights are described below, reflecting the range of issue areas on which we focus.
First, as noted above, considerable legislative progress was made in the area of voting. In addition to the accomplishments already specified, the first leg of a constitutional amendment was passed to establish no-excuse absentee voting. This will require enactment again in the next General Assembly for it to become part of the Constitution.
Another measure related to voting that we supported and that was adopted is to authorize Delaware to participate in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which would award all of a state’s electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the overall popular vote in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Nationwide, as of August 2020, 16 jurisdictions with 196 electoral votes have joined the Compact. To win, a candidate needs 270 votes. Passage by the remaining needed states is of course uncertain.
In the area of social policy, the General Assembly approved a new provision that has now been added to the Delaware Constitution, namely that no one can be deprived of his/her rights on the basis of sex. Passage of this measure in the 150th General Assembly followed its passage in the 149th, which was required for a change to the Constitution.
Another constitutional amendment passed by the 150th General Assembly spells out that no one can be denied equal rights on the basis of race, color, or national origin. However, it can’t become law until it passes again during the 151st General Assembly. We will actively support that measure.
In the environmental area, legislation was adopted to restrict the use of single-use plastic bags. Large retailers, as of January 2021, are banned from providing such bags at check-out, with a few small exceptions.
In addition, a bill was passed to facilitate the use of solar panels on residential roofs. Notably, that legislation includes the following language: “…, it is the policy of the State of Delaware to protect the public health, safety, and welfare by encouraging the development and use of renewable resources and to remove obstacles thereto.”
Land Use & Transportation are also areas of focus, and legislation was adopted during this General Assembly to establish a vertical limit for industrial landfills. In addition, a law requiring transparency in regard to the use of the Community Transportation Fund was passed. This fund allocates money to legislators each year to make improvements in their districts. With this new legislation, the public will be able to monitor how those dollars are distributed.
In the area of access to quality health care, a measure was adopted to ensure that the Affordable Care Act’s provisions will remain in effect in our state, regardless of actions taken at the federal level. In addition, legislation was adopted to improve the functioning of the Childhood Lead Poisoning Advisory Committee, giving it more authority and responsibility. Our own Sandy Spence was appointed to the Committee, and we know she will work hard to enhance this group’s effectiveness.
Dental services for adults were finally added to the Medicaid Program, a measure that we long advocated for. It will be implemented as of this coming October.
Finally, Criminal Justice was given appropriately high attention in the General Assembly and by the League. Indeed, the full range of bills passed is the focus of a separate write-up, so that the accomplishments in this area can be fully articulated.
In the Spotlight: Legislative Activity Related to Criminal Justice, 150th General Assembly
The 150th Session was a big one for our Justice Portfolio. We learned that the U.S. locks up more of its people than any other nation, and Delaware locks up at a rate higher than our national average and higher than any neighboring states. So, joining the Smart Justice Coalition spearheaded by our partner the ACLU of Delaware was an easy decision. We shared the Coalition’s two main goals: 1) cut our prison population in half and 2) reduce racial disparities in Delaware’s criminal justice system. Numerous bills were introduced in both 2019 and 2020 -- the latter in spite of the COVID-19 closure of the General Assembly for most of 2020. Needless to say, the criminal justice portfolio followers were challenged!
Several Smart Justice bills were enacted in 2019.
Expanding second chances through expungement provisions reformed the availability of expungement for adults following legislation over the last few years to expand the ability of juveniles to have their crimes expunged. SB 37 expanded the availability of expungement for adults, the first of 19 Smart Justice bills, eleven of which were enacted in 2019.
Several Smart Justice bills were enacted in 2019.
Another expungement bill, HB 102, allows a person arrested or convicted of any crime, except a violent felony, that was a direct result of being a victim of human trafficking to apply for a pardon or expungement - signed on June 20, 2019. A related bill signed the same day is SB 60. It clarifies that to be found guilty of prostitution the person must be 18 years or older.
Another Smart Justice bill expected to reduce incarceration dramatically is HB 5. It allows concurrent rather than consecutive sentences for certain cases with more than one charge, restoring balance to plea bargaining. It reduces the ability of prosecutors to "stack" charges relating to the same conduct that carry mandatory minimums and effectively force defendants to take a plea. It will reduce the number of cases, restore sentencing discretion to judges, and allow defendants to test the strength of the state's case at trial without risking a draconian outcome if found guilty. Reducing minimum mandatory sentences has long been one of LWV’s top criminal justice priorities. HB5 was signed by the Governor on June 25, 2019.
Revising drug statutes that have been a major contributor to the growth in incarceration over the years, another Smart Justice priority, was addressed in SB 45. It makes the possession, use, or consumption of a personal-use quantity of marijuana a civil violation for juveniles, as it already was for adults. It was signed on July 31, 2019. In addition, SB 47, signed on September 19, 2019, removes location-based enhancements for drug crimes that disproportionately impact urban residents and simplifies the drug “tiering” system to reduce the crime classification and sentence length for some drug crimes.
HB 77 and HB 78 help reduce the duplication of crimes, remove minimum mandatory sentences for some conduct, eliminate sentence enhancement, and give more discretion to sentencing judges in certain cases. HB 77 accomplishes this by consolidating the crime of home invasion with burglary. HB 78 eliminates the crime of carjacking by embedding this crime within robbery statutes. These bills were signed on June 19, 2019.
SB 41, signed on July 30, 2019, establishes that the age of offense and not the age of arrest determines jurisdiction for a person facing charges, allowing the case to be held in Family Court rather than adult court.
Finally, three bills were signed on August 13, 2019, that make it easier for felons who complete their sentence to get a job that requires a license to practice in Delaware. There are scores of such occupations. Each one has specific requirements and oversight by separate commissions or other bodies that must be addressed in separate legislation.
HB 7 gives the State Examining Board of Physical Therapists discretion to grant a waiver of a felony conviction for a crime committed against a person where more than three years have elapsed, and for all other felonies, more than 2 years elapsed since the conviction. The board may not consider a conviction where 10 years have elapsed since conviction if there were no other criminal convictions in the intervening time. (The law already prohibits physical therapist licensure to anyone that has a felony sexual offense conviction.) SB 43 permits waivers for felony convictions under similar conditions for electricians. And HB 124 provides similar waivers for HVAC, plumbing, and refrigeration licenses.
In addition, the House and Senate, in late 2019, passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 37 that urged Delaware's U.S. Congressional Delegation to support federal legislation to establish a national database of beneficial ownership of corporations and limited liability companies to assist federal and state law enforcement in combating criminal activity.
The COVID-19 pandemic and shutting down of the General Assembly for most of the second year of the 150th Session left several more criminal justice reform bills unconsidered. One outstanding exception was HB 350 that creates the crime of “Aggravated Strangulation” when a law enforcement officer, acting in his/her official capacity, knowingly or intentionally uses a chokehold on another person. “A chokehold is only justifiable when the officer reasonably believes deadly force is warranted to protect the life of a civilian or law-enforcement officer.” The bill also makes it clear that if a person is charged under this section, that charge shall not preclude or limit the State or any other prosecuting agency from bringing other criminal charges. This bill passed the House and Senate on June 25, 2020, but had not been signed by the Governor as of July 31, 2020. It is expected that the Governor will sign it.
We are always looking for additional volunteers to work with us, to study issues and prepare position papers, letters to the editor, op-eds, etc. Come join us. And we hope you will TAKE ACTION whenever we send an Action Alert on important bills!
Advocacy Focus LWVUS
To learn about the priority national issues with which LWVUS is involved, go to LWV-Our Work.
If you would like to advocate on LWVUS positions at the national level, consider joining the LWVUS Grassroots Lobby Corps to receive email action alerts from the LWVUS and respond by sending quick, targeted, and sometimes last-minute, messages to members of Congress on priority issues before key votes. To get involved in this network, go to the League's website here. Provide your contact information and check the Grassroots Lobby Corps.